Friday, April 24, 2015

School trips - taking you for a ride


School going days now seem like a blur of memories but mostly good ones. I love the fact that I’m still in touch with most of my school buddies, all of them doing their thing, getting married, having kids, making careers – overall having a good life.
I’d also like to believe that our schooling had some part to play in what kind of individuals we’ve become. From the disciplinary sessions by teachers and long hours of preparation for exams to the sports events, annual plays and of course the school trips with friends, all these things put together, made us decent individuals.
Now, when I have a daughter of my own, I sometimes wonder if my daughter is going to experience these things in a similar way or not. Sometimes the conclusion I come to is not so pleasing.
Recently, I heard about one of the schools in Lahore (similar to the one I went to as a kid), which arranged for an international trip for their students (paid entirely by the parents of course). Mind you, this is not the first school to do this and I’m sure it’s not going to be the last.
The thing that came to my mind when I heard this was, “How did the parents feel about this trip?” especially the ones who couldn’t afford sending their children.
In my personal opinion, school trips, above anything else, should serve the purpose of creating a sense of shared joy amongst kids and bring them together as friends and increase comradery and belongingness rather than make it difficult for some to join in on all the fun and then have to listen to the stories and see the images of how part of them enjoyed the experience and the rest did not.
Trips of such expensive nature, perhaps don’t manage to do this, instead they become a burden for parents and means of shame for the kids who can’t go. My parents spent a lot of money just to educate us in the best institutes and hardly had enough money left over such exuberant trips.
Kids left behind on such trips go through a lot of emotional baggage. Most can’t cope well with it and get frustrated and angry at their parents. In some cases, they start idolizing the wrong things in life, i.e. money over family. They fear losing a bond with their closest / ‘best’ friends who were able to go and they weren’t. The difference between the “haves” and the “have nots” becomes blatantly obvious.
Furthermore, why take kids out of the country when there is still so much to see in Pakistan? The heritage, the culture of the country overall and the wilderness and beauty of the north isn’t as dangerous as our media would make us believe!
I remember that on all our school trips, we were forced to wear the school uniform – which in hindsight was the absolutely best thing that the school could do! It neutralized the gap between the richest in class and the poorest. It made us all thing like a team, it united us and celebrated our similarities and made communication easy.
We also got stay for free or had the best discounts by staying in boarding schools or in guest houses across the country that were paid partially by the school to make the trip as economical as possible. I don’t remember ever seeing one of our friends miss those trips due to monetary concerns.
None of that is seen in the so-called “elite” schools of today and it goes to show that we’re not heading in the right direction and I hope we realize this sooner than later.